Picnic tables are arranged around a white shack, offering views of Fort Getty and the Jamestown Bridge; there’s a distinctly salty breeze in the air and a tray of oysters to be shucked. This is the quintessential coastal Rhode Island experience you can expect from Walrus and Carpenter Oyster Bar, and you can’t get any closer to the source of these shellfish without putting on waders yourself. “We launch our work boats from this marina, and our Dutch Harbor farm – where we grow our ‘Dutchie’ oysters – is just a few hundred yards offshore from the oyster bar,” explains farmer and sales manager Kevin Cummings. “So essentially, visitors can enjoy our oysters right where they are grown.”
A seasonal seafood venue, the WCO bar reopened their doors in time for Memorial Day to once again put oyster aficionados and newbies alike to the test of tasting Dutchies and the oysters grown from their Charlestown farm in Ninigret Pond, dubbed “Originals”, side by side. “It’s really fun to see people comparing the differences between the flavor profiles between the two varieties,” says Cummings. “We get a lot of really good questions from guests, and we love talking with them about the environmental factors and the farming techniques that create such distinct flavor profiles based on which body of water the oysters are grown in.”
The oyster bar is a new extension of their business as of last summer. “We’re keeping it simple and leading with what we know...oysters. We are oyster farmers first and foremost, and we take pride in the shellfish we grow,” says Cummings. Using sustainable practices and collaborating with chefs, their team of farmers takes into account environmental features, like Ninigret Pond’s sandy overwash plane, that cultivate the best flavor: a marriage of salty and sweet, briny and buttery. Delivery to local restaurants happens the same day these plump bivalves are harvested.
Now, served up at their Jamestown bar with house-made apple ginger mignonette sauce and hot sauce, the immediate feedback on flavor and texture is a rewarding part of the process for both farmers and eaters. “The atmosphere is casual and the menu is simple. Guests order shucked oysters, iced tea, lemonade, chips and dip at the window, and take their oysters to our picnic tables that line the clam shelled parking lot,” says Cummings.
Dutchies and Originals will always be at the center of the menu, though this summer they’ll be adding a few more raw and cold seafood options and sides to the menu, too. Folks will also be able to order ahead online to pick up oysters to shuck at home, along with shucking knives and gloves, making the experience easy – and thankfully more thoughtful than the conniving methods used by the Walrus and Carpenter characters of Alice in Wonderland fame!